Exploring strategies for successful student retention

Guest post from Daniel Yip (@DanielYip22) Placement Student at the Teaching and Learning Institute (TALI). Studying Chemistry and Forensic Science. Daniel attended the Retention Forum on the 17th September 2013.

The main question for this forum was:

‘For students enrolled in a given year, did they return to continue their studies the following year?’ – If not, why not?

As a student you will have never considered other students leaving prematurely from their course as a bad thing, or a large impact onto the University. However this forum, pieced everything into perspective, and a solution had to be found, fast! If a student commits to a degree, and leaves after their first year for any particular reason, the University loses the funding that they would have received, if the student continued with their course. The Retention Forum was a gathering of staff from all the schools of the University, and a handful had to present their ideas to stop students from leaving, what research they conducted, and identify why they are leaving prematurely. If not this could affect the reputation, economy, social and ethical impact of the University.

The presentations were spectacularly delivered, and highlighted statistics that they have conducted through their research, regarding Non-retained students. Key questions were asked in discussions between presentations such as;

  • ‘’Are the students right for the course when they start?’
  • ‘Is a stronger selection process needed?’ 
  • ‘Is there a particular school retaining more students that others?’’

These questions had to be brought up and debated, as it could affect the University uniformly if they brought about change. The simple target for this year is to retain more students, but getting there will be complicated. In the previous year the University was successful in retaining student, and this was a great achievement, but further effort is needed to get an ideal low figure of non-retention students.

 “In the final analysis, the key to successful student retention lies with the institution, in its faculty and staff, not in any one formula or recipe. It resides in the ability of faculty and staff to apply what is known about student retention to the specific situation in which the institution finds itself.”

(Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving College. London: The University of Chicago Press, Ltd.)

For more information if requiring Retention statistics and additional presentation slides from the forum contact Sarah Broxton

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The Future of Student Engagement – RAISE Conference 2013

The Researching, Advancing & Inspiring Student Engagement (RAISE) Network held its annual conference ‘The Future of Student Engagement: Partnerships, Practices, Policies and Philosophies’, 12-13 Sep at Nottingham Trent University.

Colin Bryson from Newcastle University opened with a presentation called ‘Partnership – why it is the way forward for student engagement’

Colin set out his definition of student engagement, which is about being and becoming through fostering a sense of belonging and community, autonomy and creativity, confidence and self assurance. Colin ended the presentation by asking us to consider some of the challenges to the future of student engagement:

  • How do we create opportunity for all students? Not just the champions/the few.
  • How obligatory should partnership and participation be for all students?
  • Are there limits/boundaries to student/staff co-determination?

I think the comment from Students as Partners twitter account sums up the benefits to using the idea of partnership in relation to student engagements.

Students and staff engaging via a Teaching and Learning Consultancy scheme

With my colleague Dr Liz Bennett I presented a paper called ‘A student and staff partnership model to enable dialogue and enhance teaching and learning’ with findings from the Higher Education Academy funded project Students as Teaching and Learning Consultants. We argued that the consultancy scheme that was set up as part of the project created a space where students and staff could step outside normal roles and the traditional student/teacher relationship. Throughout the project students have been keen to engage with a staff perspective and this has been the case for a number of staff who participated as well. We argue that through this model both student and staff are able to occupy a liminal position that offers different insights and produces a different kind of student/staff relationship. See also previous project blog posts about the new role of students and the new relationship with staff.

We used a conceptual framework for student engagement developed by Ella Kahu in her paper Framing student engagement in higher education, Studies in Higher Education,Vol. 38, Iss. 5, 2013 and as it turned out Ella Kahu was actually at the conference! So it was also a great opportunity to say hi to Ella (who is at @EllaKahu).

Second keynote was by Nick Zepke from Massey University, New Zealand.

The first day ended with a book launch for The Student Engagement Handbook, Practice in Higher Education edited by Elisabeth Dunne and Derfel Owen

Just talk to us

The second day started with a student panel where we heard a range of student stories about engagement. A few of the students – reflecting on the first day of the conference – wanted more practical demonstrations of student engagement, ideas that worked (and didn’t work) that they could take back to their institutions.

Some key advice that the students had for staff in relation to student engagement were:

  • Be careful with the jargon when you promote engagement
  • Be excited to be there and doing your job (and be excited about working with us)
  • Don’t be judgemental of your students – work with them, be receptive to new ideas

Multifaceted approach to student engagement

I was impressed with the amount of initiatives going on at Birmingham City University, they are really embedding student/staff engagement and partnership across the institution with their ‘umbrella of opportunity’ – students as academic partners, employees, mentors, entrepreneurs and in collaborative projects.

Also enjoyed hearing about research done by PhD student Shanna Saubert (University of Leeds) into international students and their experiences of engagement.

I caught a great session by students and staff from the University of Reading showcasing the OSCAR online studio community – this facilitates collaborative working as well as students showing their work (from the time they receive an offer – even before they start at University, amazing really…).

Key take-aways: Collaboration and going beyond the traditional conference format

What really struck me at this conference was that creating opportunities for students and staff to have informal conversations and to engage in genuine collaboration seem to be key to developing a sense of shared responsibility and a community of engaged students and staff.

I also talked to a few of the student delegates over lunch on the second day of the conference and was struck by their feedback on the conference format. They wanted more practical ideas, more participation, more stuff actually produced and less of the paper presentation and panel debate formats that most HE staff have probably gotten far too used to. I think what the students were suggesting was much more like a ‘hackathon’ where there is collaboration on the day and also the potential for outputs or like a ‘TeachMeet’ with a focus on practical ideas and mini presentations

Don’t reduce students to consumers

It was great to have students at the conference and also representation from the National Union of Students (NUS). I did not see Rachel Wenstone’s presentation where she mentioned the NUS Manifesto For Partnership but I have seen her speak against the idea of students as consumers. Anyone interested in student engagement and student/staff partnership should view this recording of her keynote at the Association for Learning Technology.

RAISE Conference in tweets

It was great to see so many delegates tweeting about sessions etc and very useful to be able to follow the conference activities. To see some of the tweets, please click on the link to a RAISE Storify I created following the conference – may not have captured all the tweets as it was done a few days after the event.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen)

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New perspectives: reflections from Student Teaching and Learning Consultants

Through being one of many Higher Education Academy projects, I made contact with Garry Maguire and Fiona Gilbert from Oxford Brookes University. They are doing the Assignment Brief Consultancy (ABC) Project also funded by a HEA individual grant. We did a small collaboration where some of the student consultants interviewed lecturers about designing assignment briefs and thus collected data for the ABC project.

Garry developed an evaluation survey for the Student teaching and learning consultant project and 8 out of 11 students responded. All responses were anonymous.

  • Seven of the students said that participating in the project had encouraged them to become involved in research related activity in the future and they would recommend participating in such projects to another student.
  • Six rated their experience of participating in the project as a student consultant researcher as extremely positive and two as very positive.
  • When asked to rate the preparation / induction / research training they received for the project 3 said it was ‘Extremely effective’, 2 said ‘Very effective’ and 3 said ‘Moderately effective’.

We asked them to outline ONE aspect of the research process that they were now more expert in than before participating:

  1. How to have open and constructive dialogue with a lecturer
  2. Observing large rooms of students and spotting areas for development.
  3. Giving effective feedback
  4. Asking the right questions
  5. Providing constructive feedback
  6. Details of writing a feedback or reports has improved
  7. Liaising with lecturers and approaching sensitive subjects with tact
  8. Range of teaching methods

Developing perspectives on the complexity of teaching and learning

But what I think is the most interesting to come out of the survey are the student comments on how participating in the project has made them think about the role of the teacher and about teaching and learning. The students appear to have a more nuanced view of what it means to teach and what this means for the learners.

We asked them: to what extent has the project changed or informed your perception of learning?

I am definitely more informed about the underlying principles of good teaching and how people learn. I have always been aware of people learning better in different forms but I have been able to see where they fit into different subject areas and content types.

I now know that there is the potential out there for learning to be so much more than it is now. Some lecturers get it but I think more can be done to change the learning experience. But I also realise that students still need to be willing or no changes will make a difference.

It has made me more observant during lectures and realising what is good and bad practice. I realise that people learn differently and at different levels therefore it is a skill to get the balance right during a lecture.

I have learnt about different ways people learn

It has made me see that teachers find it difficult to match their style of teaching to all students’ learning styles therefore I should be more open to different teaching methods

I realize now the amount of different factors that can affect a students learning and motivation in their course. Furthermore, I have become aware of certain areas where there is miscommunication between lecturers and students.

It has given me a better eye at seeing different teaching techniques being used and the amount of planning that involved in one lecture.

We asked them: to what extent has the project changed or informed your perception of teaching?

I have a much more informed view of what students as a whole think of as good and inspiring teaching, what techniques there are and how people use them.

Teaching is far more complex than I ever thought, and even though some teachers do understand that changes are necessary and even implement them it is very difficult to get students interested, involved and inspired.

It is harder than we would assume it to be!!

Different teaching styles

It has made me feel like the university cares about how the student’s feel about learning. I have found that lecturers are also receptive to feedback and are eager to alter the way they teach in order to improve students learning.

I have become aware of certain areas where there is mis-communication between lecturers and students. Also, the lack of lecturers engaging with students – I believed lecturers understood the position the students were in sometimes. But also, how hard it is to get lecturers and teaching materials right when students complain but do not give constructive criticism which i believe is very important.

I am looking forward to going to the Third Annual Researching, Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement (RAISE) Conference, 12 – 13 September 2013 at Nottingham Trent University where I am co-presenting some of the findings from this project. Click for Conference Programme

Also I recommend joining the RAISE network if you are interested in student engagement.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen)

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Student as Producer and thoughts on the benefits of process and liminality

I visited University of Lincoln with some colleagues to hear about the Student as Producer project. A Higher Education Academy funded project to embed research-engaged-teaching across the curriculum. A conference was held at the University of Lincoln on 26-27 June 2013 to mark the end of the funded period of the Student as Producer project.

What is Student as producer?

The conference was opened by Dr Mike Neary, Dean of Teaching and Learning at University of Lincoln, who is also the director of the Student as Producer project. The ‘Student as Producer’ has been the organising principle for teaching and learning since 2010 at Lincoln.

Dr Neary described the student as producer concept as a social movement, an act of resistance in response to the students as consumers rhetoric.  An essential part of the ‘student as producer’ is embedding research and research-like activities in the curriculum so that students become part of the academic community.

See the Student as Producer flyer for more information

Student as Researcher

Professor Stuart Hampton-Reeves delivered a really engaging and erudite keynote that was about his work in developing opportunities for undergraduates to engage in research. It was very interesting to hear about how the British Conference of Undergraduate Research had come about and definitely made our Huddersfield contingent determined to get involved in this somehow!

Stuart Hampton-Reeves is Professor of Research-informed Teaching and Head of the Graduate Research School at the University of Central Lancashire and chair of the British Conference of Undergraduate Research.

A Model for Meaningful Student Engagement: Students as Teaching and Learning Consultants workshop

My colleague Dr Liz Bennett and Dawn Bagnall, an undergraduate student in psychology, who has been working as a student consultant and I delivered a workshop on student engagement in relation to the Higher Education Academy funded ‘Students as Teaching and Learning Consultants‘ project, which we are all part of.

We asked the participants to consider what current methods they had for engaging students in teaching and learning and then using a ‘Ladder of participation’ model to discuss where the different methods were situated from non-participation, to tokenistic and fully empowered participation.

We then also briefly presented the Students as Teaching and Learning Consultants as one model for active student participation and student/staff partnerships and some of the feedback we have had from students and staff about the project.

Further reflections: conversational and collaborative spaces

Following the workshop and further reflection on the project after the conference, especially a comment from Professor Philippa Levy that partnership is a process, I am increasingly thinking about the importance of conversational spaces where student and staff can collaborate. And I think this is really central to the ‘Students as teaching and learning consultants project’.

The more I evaluate the project, the more I think it is about setting up a partnership model that is not just focused on outcomes and impact (though it does need to do this too).  A space where people can bring their different expertise, a space that is hopefully not dominated by traditional teacher/learner power relationships. In this model, there is structure in the student consultancy scheme in relation to how students and staff opt in and get recruited but there is also a much less structured negotiated space where students and staff have opportunities to engage in conversations about teaching and learning in a collaborative way. The students have been keen to expand and perhaps even step out of their normal student roles in order to engage with a staff perspective and this seems to have been the case for a number of staff who participated as well. I am reminded of the work by Alison Cook-Sather in which she suggests that undergraduates working as pedagogical consultants are in liminal positions, in-between being a student or being a member of staff.

“…we are interested in exploring liminality as a threshold between and among clearly established roles at which one can linger, from which one can depart and to which one can return. Specifically, we seek to understand what happens when undergraduate students take up a liminal position between student and teacher not with the goal of transitioning from the former to the latter but rather with the goal of accessing and acting upon the insights that such an indeterminate state affords and the potential that crossing and re-crossing the limen has to transform ongoing teacher/student relationships.

(Cook- Sather and Alter 2011: 38)”

Cook-Sather, Alison, and Zanny Alter, “What Is and What Can Be: How a Liminal Position Can Change Learning and Teaching in Higher Education,” Anthropology and Education Quarterly 42 (2011): 37-53.

I would argue that perhaps both student and staff are able to occupy a liminal position that offers different insights and produces a different kind of student/staff relationship. See also my earlier post on A new student role and a new relationship with staff which has some of the background for these reflections.

Take a look at the Student as Producer Storify for some great tweets and the story of the conference.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen)

Posted in Conference, HEASTLC, Research | 1 Comment

Student and staff partnerships as ‘student engagement’ – on being a case study

I was asked  to present the ‘Students as Teaching and Learning Consultants” project as part of the national ‘Changing the Learning Landscape’ programme; to be a sort of ‘live’ case study at two of their strategic change workshops in April 2013.

Photo of workshop

All rights served, Kevin Flinn

The workshop delegates were teams of management and academic support staff from 16 English HE institutions who are enacting change programmes (the teams include student representatives)

I went along with James Ritchie, one of the student consultants, who presented his experience of being part of the project.

I am sure that many of the questions that came up in discussion reflect what a wider audience might ask so I thought I would include them here:

How did you select the students to be part of the scheme?

The Student Consultants were recruited from students taking part in the Students’ Union’s STARS (Student Training and Recognition Scheme). Participants in STARS are drawn from a wide-range of involved students that include course representatives, student activity group leaders, and community volunteers. The diverse range of participants in this scheme have ensured that there is a good cross-section of the student body – for example, our clubs and societies include different faith and cultural groups, and there is always a good representation of mature students involved in the course rep system.

Students were asked to submit a paragraph about why they were interested in being part of the project and in teaching and learning.

Were the students paid? Should students be paid?

Students are paid £10.35 an hour to train and work as teaching and learning consultants. I believe students should be paid when we ask them to commit time and expertise to a project or other activities. This is also a way to ensure that all students can be included and not just the ones that can ‘afford’ the time.

James made the point that, although the students were not initially told they would be paid (I believe this was part of the Students’ Union’s recruitment strategy), he would not have been able to do as much work with members of staff as he has done.

How did you ensure that not only the engaged students were involved?

This is a difficult question as the students were recruited on the basis of having an interest in teaching and learning and improving the student experience. This project is very much one of many platforms to engage students meaningfully in teaching and learning. There should be other processes in place to represent the more ‘quiet’ students and the outcome of the discussions on the day was very much that the course rep role would cover this.

What training did the students receive?

The main aim of the training was to prepare the student to meet with staff and present the project aims and negotiate tasks to undertake. Focus was on how to give feedback in a way that enabled conversations about teaching and learning rather than judgments about approaches/styles.

Students were presented with an overview of educational approaches but not given any specific pedagogical training. The training was really about giving students confidence in their ‘authentic’ student voice and in the student perspective they would be able to offer.

I was pleased that a number of the student representatives that were there agreed with this and saw the importance of student retaining a ‘student perspective’ rather than becoming ‘experts’.

How do you get the members of staff who need to improve their teaching to take part? Should the scheme not be mandatory? Could staff be referred by managers to work with student consultants?

This is where the student representatives from the organisations taking part in the scheme made some fantastic arguments for how making such a scheme mandatory for staff would undermine the aims and ethos of the partnership approach. It would result in the scheme becoming a tick box exercise with no possibility for real impact.

James also argued that making it mandatory could mean that the students would not be received as positively by the members of staff as had been the case at the moment. This positive welcome was key to students having confidence to engage in conversation and seems to have been an effect of the students being in a different role. As a consultant James felt he was taken seriously and given a lot of responsibility. Staff were asking him what he could offer and these discussions often led to prolonged involvement in different tasks.

Following the workshops, Jessica Poettcker, lead on Technology Enhanced Learning, the National Union of Students kindly let me know that:

“Your project has generated a lot of interest among attendees of the workshops in student mentoring – I’ve had so many questions about it since then”

 

“Your project has generated a lot of interest among attendees of the workshops in student mentoring – I’ve had so many questions about it since then”

(Jessica Poettcker, NUS lead on Technology Enhanced Learning)

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C-MENT

This is a guest post by James McDowellThis is one of the 2013  Teaching and Learning Innovation Projects funded by the Teaching and Learning Institute at the University of Huddersfield (TALI). It is the final post of 11 guest posts by TALI funded projects.

ALT

In 2009, the University of Huddersfield’s Teaching and Learning Strategy set out an institutional vision for the four years to 2013, with one initiative being to support academics in becoming a Fellow of the Higher Education (FHEA); in 2012 the university became the first higher education institution in the UK at which 100% of academic staff teaching on undergraduate or postgraduate courses achieved FHEA status.

As part of demonstrating their commitment to continuing professional development, academics were also encouraged to achieve professional recognition within their disciplines and subject areas, and many of my colleagues in the School of Computing and Engineering elected to become either a Member of the British Computer Society (MBCS), or a Member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology. During this time however, I had been working towards my PhD in the field of technology-enhanced learning (TEL), and after being named Winner of the ALT-Epigeum Award for Most Effective Use of Video in 2011, I found myself drawn towards the professional accreditation scheme offered by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). Developing a portfolio of evidence of how I had used technology to enhance my teaching, I achieved recognition as a Certified Member of ALT (CMALT) early in 2012, and on the strength of my portfolio was invited to become a CMALT Assessor.

Having engaged with TALI’s Teaching and Learning Innovation Projects in each of the three years since it was launched, I recognised that while the Learning Technology Advisors (LTAs) and related staff in each of the university’s seven Schools had been key to the success of many worthwhile projects, they were sometimes ‘unsung heroes’ whose invaluable work I believed deserved greater, more formal recognition. In line with an aim of the Teaching and Learning Strategy that academic-related colleagues will be “high-achieving reflective people, at the forefront of their fields … [and] active in appropriate professional practice”, CMent was therefore conceived as vehicle by which to contribute to that aim, facilitating professional recognition for our LTAs through becoming CMALT Holders.

Building initially upon the work of an ongoing, university-wide project through which video-enhanced assessment and feedback (VEAF) practices were being extended into each School with the help of Academic Champions, CMent sought to deepen the involvement of the LTAs with this and other TALI-supported Innovation Projects. Identifying both previous work which might contribute to a portfolio, and opportunities to work with academics to embed TEL and VEAF practices within their teaching, a group of ten candidates comprised of LTAs and other academic-related staff have been mentored through the process of documenting these activities as part of the development of their CMALT portfolios.

Following the initial meeting, a dedicated e-portfolio system was made available for candidates to view examples of successful portfolios, to begin developing case studies and collating evidence against each of the key criteria to be met, and to provide opportunities for peer review and feedback to help disseminate best practice. In additional one-to-one sessions, areas including the impact of learning difficulties such as dyslexia and Asperger’s Syndrome on students have also been explored with candidates, highlighting how and where TEL and VEAF practices can be used to help meet legislative requirements.

Building a successful CMALT portfolio is expected to take at least six months, and can often take substantially longer, but two members of the project team have already submitted their portfolios, and while awaiting accreditation have begun mentoring other candidates who are continuing to build their portfolios with a view to submission before the end of the academic year.

Huddersfield may have been the first university to see all academics achieve FHEA status, but the race is still on to become the first institution to achieve 100% CMALT status amongst those working in learning technology roles. Since the C-Ment project began, it has emerged that University College London also recognises the importance of achieving professional accreditation for those working in learning and technology roles, and in 2011 UCL launched its own scheme to support 20 candidates through to becoming CMALT Holders – we may have made a later start, but we’re making ground on them, and it’s great to know that Huddersfield is in direct competition with an institution like UCL.

Finally, and hot off the press, our abstract for a symposium entitled “Enhancing institutional practice through CMALT accreditation” which will describe the work of the project has been accepted for the ALT annual conference, alt-c 2013, to be held at the University of Nottingham on 10th-12th September 2013, and we will be there flying the flag for Huddersfield!

Posted in Computing and Engineering, Innovation projects, Learning technology, professional development, Training, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Student teaching and learning consultants reflect on project impact

A post updating project progress for the Students as Teaching and Learning Consultants project – funded by the Higher Education Academy

The power of Play-Doh

I feel like I should have known to bring in Play-Doh at a much earlier stage in this project as there is something about engaging your hands in moulding something that seems to open up conversation. I think I tend to forget that it is incredibly difficult to show up to a group session and then be asked to reflect on what you have been doing. The last session that I did with the student I asked them to evaluate the project and also to talk about what inspirational teaching is. Nick Boone, one of the student consultants, took the photo below and uploaded it to the online forum the group is using to share experiences.

Photo of Play-Doh figures representing an inspirational teacher

An inspirational lecturer using multiple teaching methods and explaining things as they go along

I think it is interesting that the students have mostly considered teaching to be lecturing in a classroom (as depicted in the photo). I am not sure whether this is due to how we have presented the idea of feedback on teaching (which did involve a mock-lecture and an introduction to observation), the activities they have been asked to undertake by staff or simply reflects the current experiences of the students involved.

Benefits to students

I asked the students about the skills or benefits that they thought they had gained by being part of this project:

  • Confidence in giving feedback
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Seeing teaching methods more clearly
  • Using an audio recorder
  • Nice to feel on par with a lecturer and work ‘with them’ rather than ‘for’ or ‘against’ them
  • I think I have become more observant of good practices since doing training and observing others

“I feel that I have certainly gained more skills and experience in the way I think and give critique. This has helped me in my everyday studies giving me more confidence in my own feedback.”

(Student consultant H)

“I have found that working one to one with tutors has enabled me to improve my communication skills. I was initially concerned that I would not be ale to communicate effectively if I needed to provide constructive criticism, however I have found that this has been received in a positive manner by the tutors I have worked with. Another concern was that I would not be taken seriously as I am a student and not a tutor, however the staff that I have worked with have had respect for the project and have been eager to find ways of improving the learning experience for their students.”

(Student consultant F)

Student teaching and learning consultants want to know more about impact

In evaluating the project students are keen to know what the members of staff thought about their feedback and also if their contributions had any impact (eg. any changes being made). The way the current consultation process is set up relies on staff filling in an evaluation form after they have worked with students. As we all know getting anyone to fill in a form takes time so this part of the work is only partially done. Dr Liz Bennett is also carrying out a number of interviews with staff that we hope may provide some more detail.

Most of the staff who responded said the feedback was very useful but some had longer comments:

  • I thought it was amazing. We looked at what students wanted from feedback as opposed to what I want them to learn.
  • I thought the feedback was incredibly useful. It had both positive and negative points and he had clearly thought about the activity and its use to students.
  • It was all very positive – probably some areas of development would have been good.
  • The feedback received provided some very useful insights. The feedback was delivered in written and verbal form, written first followed by a face-to-face meeting. This was very useful, since it allowed time for reflection on various aspects of the consultation before being given further comments and being able to ask for clarification on a couple of points.

How can we improve the scheme?

The students also had a number of ideas for how to improve/enhance the scheme, most of it to do with tracking impact in some different ways:

  • Follow up observations to track progress/improvements
  • Look at other modules taught by lecturers
  • Send feedback forms to students to see if they have noticed improvements
  • Receive feedback from staff evaluation to see how useful they have found the project to be (I am working on this and I will be presenting project findings to the students at our next session)
  • Advise lecturers that face to face feedback meetings normally produce better results
  • Get members of staff who had taken part to promote the scheme in committee meetings

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen)

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